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Living on the Edge of Empire: Edomite Households in the First Millennium B.C.E.

  • Author(s): Brown, Stephanie
  • Advisor(s): Porter, Benjamin W.
  • et al.


Living on the Edge of Empire: Edomite Households in the First Millennium B.C.E.


Stephanie Hope Brown

Doctor of Philosophy in Near Eastern Studies

University of California, Berkeley

Professor Benjamin Porter, Chair

This dissertation explores the relationship between ancient empires and their peripheries. Due to the uneven distribution of written sources in the ancient world, the narratives describing this relationship are almost always written from the perspective of the imperial core. By ignoring the perspectives of groups living within imperial peripheries, this dissertation argues that these narratives omit a crucial element of the core-periphery relationship. Two such core-periphery relationships existed during the first millennium B.C.E. between the Neo-Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian Empires and the polity of Edom (located in present-day southwest Jordan). As with other core-periphery relationships in the ancient world, scholars have largely relied on sources produced by the imperial cores of the Neo-Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian Empires in order to understand their respective relationships with Edom, ignoring the perspectives and agency of conquered groups living in Edom.

This dissertation uses a tripartite approach to explore the core-periphery relationships between Edom and the Neo-Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian Empires. This approach gives equal weight to sources produced by the imperial core, the Edomite elite, and the Edomite populace in order to correct the imbalance evident in previous scholarship on Edom. The dissertation employs theories and methods associated with household archaeology and foodways practices in order to discern the actions of the Edomite populace—arguably the least historically-visible people involved in these core-periphery relationships. Because evidence produced through household-archaeological and foodways-based approaches do not rely on logocentric means of communication, they are effective means of elucidating the actions and preferences of individuals and groups about whom there is no written evidence.

The evidence explored in this dissertation found that during the period of Neo-Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian rule over Edom, life in southwest Jordan changed considerably. Neo-Assyrian political and economic policies throughout the Levant altered large-scale trade networks and forced tribute requirements on conquered peoples. This dissertation argues, however, that while both the Edomite elites and the Edomite populace took advantage of these changing regional systems, there is very little evidence of direct Neo-Assyrian or Neo-Babylonian influence found within the sources produced by both groups of Edomites (until the reign of Nabonidus); rather, the evidence suggests that these groups were closely integrated into local and Levantine social, economic, and political systems.

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